IBWA Hails Ongoing Consumer Preference Swing To Bottled Water

Posted On: 6/6/2018

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ALEXANDRIA, VA — Bottled water is the leading beverage product in the United States, by volume, for a second year in a row, according to the International Bottled Water Association and Beverage Marketing Corp. Bottled water volume grew to 13.7 billion gal. in 2017, a 7% increase over the previous year.

The distance between bottled water and carbonated soft drinks continues to widen as consumers increasingly choose bottled water instead of soda. Carbonated soft drink sales decreased for the 13th consecutive year, according to the most recent numbers from BMC.

Bottled water sales now total $18.5 billion, an increase of 8.8%. Per capita consumption exceeds 42 gal. of bottled water, a 6.2% increase. Meanwhile, the average annual intake of carbonated soft drinks has slipped to 37.5 gal., BMC statistics show. BMC predicts bottled water will exceed 50 gal. per capita within just a few more years.

Within the bottled water category, all segments grew in 2017. Domestic non-sparkling increased 5.5%, while domestic sparkling increased 27.5%. Imported water increased 9.2%.And home and office bulk water delivery (3- and 5-gal. bottles) increased 1.3%.

"Bottled water's rocket-like rise in popularity coincides with pronounced shifts in consumer preferences for refreshment and rehydration," said BMC chairman and chief executive officer Michael C. Bellas. "As the quintessential portable and affordable beverage, bottled water introduces new usage occasions and habits. Suitable for consumption at any time of the day or night, and not necessarily in need of being kept ice-cold, bottled water simply is the preferred beverage not only for consumers aiming to reduce caloric intake or lessen artificial sweetener usage but also for consumers of all kinds."

According to Joe Doss, IBWA's president and chief executive officer, "Research and polling indicate people are continuing to make the switch from other packaged drinks to bottled water."

BMC data from the past two decades shows that a large part of the sales growth for bottled water is the result of a "consumer shift" from sugar-sweetened beverages to bottled water, Doss observed.

This new data is consistent with a Harris Poll conducted for IBWA that found more than 3 in 5 Americans (63%) say bottled water (still and/or sparkling) is among their most preferred beverages, followed by coffee (62%).

The bottled water industry is making use of a variety of measures to continue reducing its environmental impact. Many bottled water companies already use recycled plastic in their bottles. Some are producing 100-% recycled PET plastic bottled water containers, he said.

Bottling water also is efficient. "When it comes to overall water use, the bottled water industry is actually a very small and efficient water user," Doss reported. "Bottled water uses only 0.011% of all water used in the United States."

Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food &Drug Administration as a food product, and FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must, by law, be as protective of the public health as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for tap water. And, in some respects such as dissolved lead, bottled-water regulations are substantially more stringent.

Founded in 1958, IBWA serves a membership that includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers.